There are fresh fears Queen Elizabeth II will not attend her late husband’s memorial service, troubling supporters who have watched the monarch’s health dominate headlines over the past six months.
A select number of British royals are set to attend the upcoming service of thanksgiving for the life of Prince Philip at Westminster Abbey, but Elizabeth’s health may prevent her from making a physical appearance.
The Queen’s health in the spotlight
We have seen little of Elizabeth since she spent a night in hospital in October for an undisclosed issue, and was ordered by her medical team to rest.
Then she sprained her back in November and tested positive for COVID-19 last month, suffering mild symptoms that led to the cancellation of some virtual events.
Although she was back on her feet last week to meet Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Buckingham Palace threw a dampener on her return to public duties after it announced she would skip Monday’s Commonwealth Day Service.
The major event, an annual service for the Commonwealth of 54 nations, was supposed to be the Queen’s first in-person public engagement since withdrawing to rest last year.
In a statement before the event, the Palace said the Queen had asked heir apparent Prince Charles to represent her at the service.
“The Queen will continue with other planned engagements, including in-person audiences, in the week ahead,” the Palace said.
The Queen’s health has been in the spotlight for months, fuelling a fretful fire in a year that is supposed to celebrate Elizabeth as the world’s oldest and longest-reigning monarch.
The Mail on Sunday understands the thanksgiving service has been cut to 50 minutes, while a side door in the abbey may be used to save the Queen from walking down the aisle.
Sources told the paper that Elizabeth has ruled out using a wheelchair.
All eyes on Philip’s service
The Queen’s attendance at Philip’s memorial isn’t the only issue threatening to cast a shadow over the event.
Her son Prince Andrew, who reportedly paid £12 million ($22.6 million) to settle a civil sexual assault case brought against him by Virginia Giuffre, “still plans” to attend the service.
His appearance would no doubt receive the side-eye treatment from many.
The Queen (if she goes) will be joined by Charles and Camilla, as well as senior royals by invitation only.
At least one high-profile royal will be missing from Philip’s memorial service, and that’s Prince Harry.
A spokesperson for the Duke of Sussex, who lives in California with his wife Meghan and two children, said he still hopes to visit the Queen as soon as possible.
The Queen still hasn’t met Harry’s daughter, who was born in June, and was named Lilibet, after her family nickname.
But any chance of Harry’s return is at a standstill, considering he has challenged a government decision that prevents him from paying for his own security on British soil.
The Duke has expressed his fears of returning to his home country due to security threats against himself and his wife.
Prince Harry forfeited his taxpayer-funded British security when he and Meghan stepped back from the royal family at the start of 2020.
Although the couple pays for its security team in the US, that same team simply can’t perform to the same level as British police without access to local intelligence and legal jurisdiction.
Paying for his own security team in the UK may seem like an obvious fix, but a lawyer representing the British government said Harry’s offer was “irrelevant” because “personal protective security by the police is not available on a privately financed basis”.
Even for the sixth in line to the British throne.
Harry’s last visit to the UK was in July, when he and Prince William unveiled a statue of their late mother Princess Diana.
As Harry tried to leave the charity event, his car was chased by the paparazzi “due to the absence of police protection”.
The service of thanksgiving will take place at Westminster Abbey on March 29, where Philip and Elizabeth were married in 1947 and celebrated their silver, golden and diamond wedding anniversaries.
Philip, the Queen’s husband of 74 years, died on April 9, a few months shy of his 100th birthday.